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End-To-End Self-Publishers vs. Freelancers: Which Is Right For You?

book publishing

When it comes to publishing providers, you have two options: working with an end-to-end self-publishing company, or working with freelancers.

End-to-end self-publishing companies are one-stop-shops that will do everything that needs to be done to turn your book from a Word document into a paperback. This will include editing and proofreading, cover design, internal layout design, eBook conversion and upload, book store distribution and printing. Some may also offer PR and marketing support.

The great thing about self-publishing companies is that they can streamline the publishing process. They have a team of professionals ready to go and, because they’re managing your publishing schedule, there shouldn’t be long waits in between suppliers (assuming that you give any feedback promptly, of course). They’ve also published many other books, so if something goes wrong they can fix it quickly, whereas you might spend hours on the phone to various suppliers trying to figure it out yourself.

The catch is that self-publishing companies charge for this convenience, and in some cases the cost might be thousands more than if you organised your own publishing team. (Though some self-publishing companies are also open to offering part of the process, such as producing your book once it’s been edited, so it’s worth investigating these options too.)

If you choose to work with freelancers, you’re likely to save on the cost of publishing. Smaller teams and sole traders have lower overheads, and they can pass those savings on to you. They may also have connections with other people in the industry, so if you can’t find an illustrator, for instance, they can send some names through and save you the time you might have spent Google-ing.

However, things don’t move as fast when working with freelancers. First, while you might need to wait a few weeks or months before you can enter a self-publishing company’s queue, if you want to work with a popular freelancer, the same thing can happen. If you want to work with a number of popular freelancers, you could be waiting several weeks between each stage of the process.

Second, any back and forth between your suppliers needs to go through you, which means issues can take longer to resolve. In a self-publishing company, your project manager will do all the back and forth, which means any design or editorial questions will often get answered without them having to bother you. When you’re working with independents, everything needs to go through you.

Finally, if something goes wrong, you might not know where to turn. A design you don’t like or an edit you’re not happy with is fairly straightforward – speak to your supplier and, if you can’t come to an agreement, find a new one. But what happens when your book isn’t appearing on Amazon, or a shipment of books got held up after you decided to print in China instead of locally? In these cases, you don’t know whom to speak to, you don’t know the business processes, and you often don’t even know the right questions to ask to get the help you need. This is where a good self-publishing company can really help – they’ve seen it before and, in most cases, can solve it quickly.

Ultimately, it comes down to the time-or-money question. If time is a higher priority to you, go with a self-publishing company. If the dollars are more important, find good freelancers.